CAR Artist Story: Mieke Zuiderweg / Chicago Artists’ Resource

How I Got Back to My Real Passion

It was only after the third month of volunteering at an after-school photography class that I had my “Aha!” art moment. I was helping teens curate a show of their self-portraits into a local art space in gritty downtown Springfield, MA. Witnessing the build of excitement triggered by self-expression, creative feedback and the pending debut of the work, I realized I wanted to be this giddy more often. It took me two years to save up enough to leave my newspaper job and start down a more creative path. While being a photojournalist was never dull, not every story left you with a good feeling. While covering world-changing events, professional sports and photographing notables was exciting, the ambulance-chasing and crime coverage never felt right to me.  Getting back to being creative and having the time to develop a project seemed infinitely more appealing to me than constantly chasing stories and living under never-ending deadlines.

The plan was simple- leave Massachusetts after eight years in newspapers and move to Chicago. I had visited the city countless times after moving to the Midwest from The Netherlands at age seven. The museums, public sculptures and endless independent galleries gave the place a feeling of artistic potential. I didn’t know it at the time but Chicago has the third largest creative economy in the U.S., sporting 150,000 jobs in that sector alone.

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